Texas Regulation Proposals Target Spread of Exotic Species
Proposed regulations under consideration by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department would enlist anglers and boaters in the fight to prevent further spread of exotic aquatic species into Texas waterways.
State fisheries biologists are requesting changes that would require anglers and boaters to take action to prevent the spread of zebra mussels, and silver and bighead carp. Although possession and transport of these species is prohibited under current rules, TPWD believes additional regulations are needed to prevent the unintentional movement of these species from one waterbody to another.
The recommended changes consist of two parts. The first would prohibit the transport of live, non-game fishes from the Red River below Lake Texoma downstream to the Arkansas border, Big Cypress Bayou downstream of Ferrell’s Bridge Dam on Lake O’ the Pines (including the Texas waters of Caddo Lake), and the Sulphur River downstream of the Lake Wright Patman dam. Collection and use of nongame fishes for bait on those water bodies would still be legal.
These changes are designed to prevent the accidental capture and movement of silver and bighead carp during bait-collecting activities for other nongame fish, especially gizzard or threadfin shad. These species can be easily misidentified at smaller sizes and within a large quantity of fish. The introduction of bighead and silver carp into Texas has the potential to cause enormous damage as these species feed on plankton required by larval fish and native mussels. They are a potential competitor with some adult fishes such as gizzard and threadfin shad that also rely on plankton for food.
The second part of the changes is designed as a precaution against incidental transfer of zebra mussels larvae known as veligers. Veligers are too small to be seen by the human eye and may occur in water taken up from infested water bodies. TPWD is proposing to exempt boaters from the application of certain exotic species regulations provided all bait buckets, live wells, bilges, and any other receptacles, containers, or systems that could contain water are emptied prior to departure. This regulation would apply to Lakes Texoma and Lavon, and the Red River from Lake Texoma downstream to the Arkansas border and upstream to the I-44 bridge in Wichita County. Following these procedures would not exempt persons from complying with prohibitions against transporting exotic species that are visible to the unaided eye, such as adult zebra mussels, which may be attached to boats or trailers.
Zebra mussels can have economic and recreational impacts in Texas reservoirs. For example, they can clog public-water intake pipes, which will lead to increased maintenance costs. Also, they can ruin boats and motors by covering boat hulls and clogging water-cooling systems, annoy boat-dock owners by completely covering anything left under water, and make water recreation hazardous because of their razor-sharp edges.
Biologists continue to recommend that every boater follow the clean, drain, dry procedure if their boat has been in waters infested with zebra mussels or other invasive species. Clean the boat, equipment and trailer of all foreign objects such as mud and vegetation; drain the boat and motor of all water before leaving the boat ramp and allow sufficient time for the boat to dry completely, preferably up to a week, before going to another water body.
In addition, TPWD is proposing a series of fishing regulation adjustments aimed at improving angler opportunities, including limiting the number of fishing devices that can be used on state park lakes and easing restrictions on largemouth bass length limits on certain lakes. The proposed changes include:
- Change minimum length limit for largemouth bass back to the statewide 14-inch limit on three reservoirs: Aquilla Reservoir (Hill County); Lake Fort Phantom Hill (Jones County); and Lake Proctor (Comanche County);
- Change daily bag limit for striped bass back to the statewide five fish limit on Possum Kingdom Reservoir (Palo Pinto County);
- Implement an 18-inch minimum length limit and five-fish daily bag for largemouth bass and prohibit use of juglines, trotlines, and throwlines on Lake Naconiche (Nacogdoches County), a reservoir that will open to angling September 1, 2012;
- Restrict the number of fishing poles (to two) that a person may use simultaneously while fishing from a dock, pier, jetty, or other man-made structure in a state park;
- Require gear tags for throwlines and minnow traps in fresh water;
- Reduce the time limit for re-dating gear tags for most devices from 30 days to 10 days; and
- Change age for license exemption from 64 to 65 for Oklahoma residents fishing in Texas to conform to recent changes in Oklahoma.
The proposals will be detailed during a series of public meetings around the state and available for review and comment on TPWD’s website. A final rulemaking by the TPW Commission will be made at its March 29-30 public hearing.